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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 15:23 GMT
Teacher strike sends pupils home
strikers' march
Up to 5,000 teachers joined a march in central London
Thousands of pupils across the south-east of England were missing classes on Tuesday, as teachers staged a one-day strike over cost-of-living allowances.

The walk-out by members of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers saw more than 1,000 primary and secondary schools forced to close.

Teachers' London allowances
Inner: 3,105
Outer: 2,043
Fringe: 792

A further 1,000 schools were affected by the disruption, the Association of London Government said.

The NASUWT wants the inner and outer London allowances to go up from 3,105 and 2,043 respectively to 6,111 - the same as Metropolitan Police officers.

The "fringe" allowance covering outlying districts should also be more than doubled to over 2,000 from 792, it said.

The NUT wants the inner London payment to go up to 6,000, the outer allowance to 4,500 and the fringe to 2,500.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers voted against joining the strike, although the union said its members were likely to get increasingly "militant" if government ministers continued to ignore their plight.

Click here for a map of the districts involved

The action by the two largest teachers' unions comes amid growing unrest in the public sector.

Local government workers in the capital were also staging a walkout on Tuesday over London weighting and firefighters were halfway through an eight-day strike over pay.

The action by local government staff - which included caretakers, classroom assistants and administrative staff - put further pressure on London schools.

Second protest

In March, a one-day protest by an estimated 3,000 members of the NUT union led to the closure of up to half the capital's 2,000 schools, disrupting lessons for some 450,000 pupils.

Basic pay
Just qualified: 17,628
After seven years: 25,746
Upper scale: 27,894

NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy said London schools were suffering a severe recruitment crisis.

"They can't hold on to their teachers either because they can't afford to live in the capital - they are either leaving the profession entirely or leaving to work in areas where it is less expensive," said Mr McAvoy.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the strike paled into insignificance when the effects of a teacher recruitment crisis were considered.

"Unless we can produce in London a permanent cadre of teachers, we'll be faced with a continued problem of supply of teachers and that produces an enormous dislocation in the education of youngsters in London," said Mr O'Kane.

"So in fact this day's strike is probably nothing in comparison to the disruption that children suffer as a result of the unavailability of teachers and the turnover of temporary and supply staff."

'Patchy'

But Graham Lane, Labour education chairman of the Local Government Association, said the strike was not causing as much disruption as the unions would wish.

strikers' march
Teachers marched through central London in protest
"It's very patchy - inner London is much worse than outer - in Richmond, for example hardly any schools are closed at all but in inner London at least 50% are closed," said Mr Lane.

Mr Lane said local education authorities were prepared to talk to the unions about offering teachers who stayed in London for four years or more a "retention bonus".

But they were not prepared to negotiate while the unions were out on strike, he stressed.

'Damaging'

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, was unmoved by the teachers' action.

"Striking is simply not the answer and serves only to damage pupils' education and undermine the teaching profession," said Mr Clarke.

"It does not help their argument in any way at all."

A teacher who started work in London in 1997 had had their pay increased by 50%, he added.


The areas covered by the London weighting allowance:

map of affected areas
  1. Surrey
  2. Berkshire: Bracknell Forest, Slough, Windsor, Maidenhead
  3. Buckinghamshire: South Bucks, Chiltern
  4. Essex: Basildon, Brentwood, Epping Forest, Harlow and Thurrock
  5. Hertfordshire: Broxbourne, Dacorum, East Herts, Hertsmere, St Albans, Three Rivers, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield
  6. Kent: Dartford, Sevenoaks
  7. West Sussex: Crawley
  8. Inner and Outer London
Back to main text

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"Another day, another public sector strike"
The BBC's Gillian Hargreaves
"The London allowance does not appear to cover living costs"
Doug McAvoy, NUT General Sceretary
"We are after the same London allowance that the police get"
Education minister Stephen Twigg
"We have to look at the problems of retaining teachers in London"

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

26 Nov 02 | Education
14 Nov 02 | Education
04 Oct 02 | Education
22 May 02 | Education
14 Mar 02 | Education
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